Everson Griffen is enjoying a breakthrough in his third NFL season. He currently leads the Vikings with three sacks through four games. And those have all come in big moments in the fourth quarter of games.

On Thursday, Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams reflected back to last winter when he began familiarizing himself with Griffen’s skill set for the first time.

“I was looking at tape sitting in my office and there was a blur going across the screen,” Williams said. “I was thinking, ‘Is that a linebacker? Is that a safety running across the field?’ And I went back and forth a couple of times. Then I got my program out and I looked at it and it was Everson Griffen.

“I looked at his height and weight and I was thinking, ‘Wow, we have something here.’”

Williams said he immediately went across the hall to talk to linebackers coach Fred Pagac and defensive line coach Brendan Daly and learned more about Griffen’s background and potential. Most of all, Williams was excited about the speed Griffen had at 6-foot-3, 273 pounds.

“I just wanted to make sure we put him in positions where we thought he could be successful,” Williams said. “That’s what I think this defensive staff has done. We’ve placed him in spots where he can flourish.”

Griffen flourished down the stretch in Detroit, delivering two sacks late to preserve the Vikings’ 20-13 win.

Hunt and gather

The emergence of guys like Griffen and nose tackle Letroy Guion along with solid contributions from guys like Fred Evans has been encouraging on a number of fronts. It not only allows the Vikings to find favorable match-ups in the trenches. But the ability to rotate guys in and out without much dropoff should keep the defense humming.

“It keeps guys fresh,” Williams said. “We want to make sure at the end of the ball game, that when it comes down to 2-minute – and most ballgames do come down to the 2 minutes – that we have enough guys that are fresh and ready to go and that can hunt. And we want guys to be able to run to the football and hunt in those 2-minute situations. And the more guys that you have playing in those first quarters, second quarter, third quarter, the fresher guys will be when it comes down to closing ball games out.”

Did you see that?

Remember that major hit rookie safety Harrison Smith put on Calvin Johnson late in the first half of Sunday’s win, a blow that turned a touchdown catch into an incompletion? Williams hopes a lot of people around the league take note. “We want to put physical play on tape,” Williams said. “We want to show people that we’re going to run to the ball. And that when they play the Minnesota Vikings, it’s going to be a long day in terms of it being a physical ballgame. That’s the way we want to play – a physical style of football. And it was good to see that Harrison did get the ball out.”

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